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The crisis in government is not the ongoing impeachment farce. The crisis is that the very concept of a higher moral principle has been replaced by a sensibility in which the choice of policies, politics, and actions are governed by a perception about which will make one appear enlightened and clever rather than moral. It is not as if there is a coherent policy structure behind the ferocity of the hatred of Trump. It is about that sensibility.
I would argue that the famous British traitors Philby, McClean, Burgess, et al., were less enthralled by Marxist dogma than by the idea of the destruction of a political order they were ‘enlightened’ enough to despise. The exhilaration of their own cleverness was reward enough. Narcissists make for the best traitors. Just ask Benedict Arnold. Or Judas Iscariot who apparently realized rather late in the game that the project Jesus had in mind was not going to be a big résumé boost for someone who expected a lucrative policy role in a new regime.
Loyalty to public service at higher career echelons has been corroded by a cult of expertise which has become more aggressive in demanding deference even as its value to the public declines because the expert answer to every issue is always more money and power for those who clearly don’t have viable solutions.
Under Obama, weakly conceived, even counterproductive policies (e.g., the entire Obama foreign policy) were governed less by ideology and more by issues of sensibility beginning with a reverence for credentialed ‘expertise,’ followed by deference to a vague notion of enlightened cultural diversity by suppressing or denigrating one’s own cultural heritage and all done in language and stylings that would meet with approval in Brussels or at the Kennedy School at Harvard. The fact that a particular policy did not work was reality’s fault. That fact that a policy may have been contrary to American interests and culture was a feature, not a bug.
The notion of public service has also declined precipitously in the news media. Professionalism has been destroyed by an overwhelming appetite to promote opinions, to demonstrate personal enlightenment. However, the more extensively journalists openly reject detached adherence to fact and balance, the less inclined are their viewers and readers are to want or need the content being offered. The more ferociously enlightened opinion is pushed, the smaller and more resistant the target audience becomes until “major” news media drifts into pathetic islands of narcissism—like CNN.
The important story this week was not that Don Lemon and his guests laughed so uproariously at a silly caricature of Trump voters but that they clearly need to believe that’s who those voters are. That is both revealing and sad. People wonder why CNN keeps Fredo Cuomo on the air but the hard truth is that only someone who really does not know how much he is missing could speak with such sincerity and confidence when delivering hogwash. Jim Lehrer or David Brinkley could never do that.
The Darwinian irony is that the desire to turn the news into a font of enlightened opinion inexorably leads to groupthink and rigid dogma which, in turn, selects for those too dumb or too intellectually insecure to question, explore, or test the dogma. In short, it leads to Don Lemon, Fredo, and a horde of half-educated 26-year-olds writing copy — and no audience.
A hell of a lot of people who owe us a duty of loyalty to an honest pursuit of truth, humility, competence, and service have been failing to deliver that. We were not supposed to notice and instead just continue to defer to titles and positions, even surrender our political judgments. But we did notice, got angry and Trump got elected; the betrayers have doubled down on their disloyalty in response. This cannot end well. Ask Judas.